This week the L.A. Times published an editorial titled “Privacy and the Web” with the opinion that “Washington shouldn’t try to micromanage the Internet, [but] it should make clear that websites have a duty to help users manage their personal information effectively.”
Personally, I have serious misgivings about the federal government’s attempts to manage Internet privacy. Understanding customer behavior and business metrics is a core function of business. A great many websites certainly ought to provide better privacy information, as well as more precise statistics, to visiting consumers. But fundamentally the law of business and capitalism should continue to allow those who are smarter and more efficient in using information to achieve greater success.
Attempts by the federal government to constrain the collection of data, and the ability to tailor offers based on this data, is a case of the government meddling in areas where it has no place. Interference with the free market serves only to punish those companies that know how to efficiently mine their data and so is the worst form of government interference with the free market.
I’m all for privacy and opt-in/opt-out options. However I feel it does little good to cripple those companies who are good at business for the purpose of expanding the nanny-state. Any decision to overreach with privacy controls will also provide a bounty for greedy and litigious attorneys looking for fresh kills on the Internet.
In effect these proposed privacy rules turn the Darwinian model on its head – punishing strong and successful companies for doing well. Perhaps these same government managers should refocus their attention to the use of electronic strip searches by the TSA; here we have a clear case of invasion of privacy with little or no demonstrable benefit.
There are no humiliating strip searches taking place on Internet eCommerce sites. The government needs to get its priorities in line.